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Here we go again

JFF match fee dispute frustrates pundits

Published:Tuesday | March 9, 2021 | 12:24 AMDaniel Wheeler/Staff Reporter
Damion Lowe (left) leads the Reggae Boyz on to the field at the National Stadium in 2019 to take on Honduras in a Concacaf Gold Cup match.

Despite previous assurances to avoid future wage disputes, the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) and the national senior men’s team have reached an impasse in their negotiations, much to the frustration of football analyst Michael Hall and...

Despite previous assurances to avoid future wage disputes, the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) and the national senior men’s team have reached an impasse in their negotiations, much to the frustration of football analyst Michael Hall and businessman/former sports executive Chris Dehring.

The Reggae Boyz have rejected the latest contract offer from the federation, which has starting players earning US$2,000 (J$301,000) per match for each World Cup qualifier with substitutes and unused subs earning US$1,500 (J$226,000) and US$1,000 (J$151,000), respectively. The offer also included a US$1,500 bonus for every win and US$1,000 for every draw.

The players have, however, demanded US$7,000 (J$1.04 million) per game, eventually leading to an end to negotiations and leaving serious doubts around the commitment of a majority of the nation’s top players ahead of a critical year, which includes the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup and the final round of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

Team captain Andre Blake, while speaking to Nationwide News Network yesterday, confirmed that negotiations were off, pointing to an ultimatum from the JFF and the players’ unwillingness to agree to the terms offered.

“Yes (negotiations are over), we are back in our corner with our offer and they are back in their corner with their offer that we are not going to sign. So as of right now, there is nothing at the table,” said Blake. “Obviously, they (JFF) don’t want to talk. I don’t know who is running the negotiations or pulling the strings but they have said, ‘Listen, if you guys don’t want to play, you take it or leave it and we will find the guys who want to play’.”

DISAPPOINTED

Hall was disappointed that the players felt an ultimatum was presented to them and believes the JFF has not done enough to raise the funds needed to meet the demands of the players.

“Is it a good offer relative to what is reported to what the players asked for? No, I don’t think so, because it’s nowhere near what the players asked for,” Hall told The Gleaner. “I think it’s an even worse offer based on the fact that it was presented on an ultimatum and not a counteroffer if the players are to be believed.”

A majority of the players including Blake, defender Damion Lowe, Leon Bailey made cryptic posts on their social media platforms on Sunday with the words ‘Take a Stance’ with the hashtag ‘Stronger Together’ in light of the failed discussions. All players under the post added the following comment, ‘Time for a Change’.

“Why is it that the JFF never has any money? What plans have they put in place? Obviously, none to generate the kind of revenue or to pull funds that will put them in a position to offer a decent wage to the players,” Hall said. “I just don’t get it and I for one am certainly tired of it.”

Meanwhile, Dehring says that regional constraints make it difficult for players to be given the wages they feel they deserve. However, he says that the federation has a responsibility to raise the necessary capital to adequately prepare the team.

“This doesn’t mean that it absolves the JFF from making sure that that value is maximised and that means they have to go and raise sponsorship. I know everybody thinks about the prize of what you get from the FIFA World Cup, but it’s going to take a lot of money to prepare the team to get them to that stage,” Dehring said. “Therefore, all that has to be taken into consideration so that they can generate a net value and pay the players according.”

National senior head coach Theodore Whitmore said last week Monday that all outstanding issues must be resolved first, so the players can concentrate on their two major assignments. With talks having deteriorated, Hall says that the country’s chances for success in the two major tournaments have taken a hit because the best players may choose not to participate.

“It suggests to me that some of our better players, some of our best players will not accept this offer and therefore this greatly diminishes our chances to do well in matches that are upcoming,” Hall said. “I think it’s all quite sad and could have been avoided.”

Interestingly, based on figures from 2018, England’s national players, who generally earn far more than Jamaica’s senior players at the club level, currently earn international match fees equivalent to J$340,000, even though those funds are given to charity. The Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation pays its players US$1,000 per match, while US Soccer pays the equivalent of $1.8 million for each match.

Calls to JFF President Michael Ricketts, General Secretary Dalton Wint and senior men’s team Manager Roy Simpson all went unanswered.

The Reggae Boyz are scheduled to face the United States on March 25 in Austria.

daniel.wheeler@gleanerjm.com